Ok, now we can cut the cake.
On the night of his 25th Birthday, Devin Booker scored 27 points to go with 9 assists and lead the Phoenix Suns to their first ever regular season win at the Footprint Center, against a long but tired Cleveland squad.
After allowing the Cavaliers to score 31 points in the first quarter, the defense held up for the rest of the game as the Suns took control of the game and never looked back. However, the shooting struggles continued as they shot only 6-26 from three point range (23.1%) and a surprising 17-27 from the free-throw line (63%), including 4 straight misses from Chris Paul in the last minute, giving Cleveland a fool’s hope that they could avoid a loss.
Despite the shooting, CP3 finished with 16 points, 10 assists and 4 steals. Deandre Ayton had a terrific second quarter, being the main reason the Suns were able to take and build the lead that they held throughout the rest of the game. He finished the game with 17 points and 12 rebounds in only 24 minutes, as he sat for most of the second half with an issue on his knee. Head coach Monty Williams and later Ayton himself said it was a bruise on his knee, and left the arena on his own feet with a slight limp.
Now, the Suns turn to the Pelicans who will visit on Tuesday, hoping they get both Payne and Ayton back as Willie Green visits the Valley for the first time as a head coach.
The Cavaliers came out swinging, with good inside presence, as you would expect from a team with such a tall and long frontcourt. Switching proved to be a problem early on. Given the hight advantage, the Suns tried to avoid it as much as they could. After a Markkanen block on a Booker attempted lay-up, the Cavs came back in transition and scored to go up 14-6 before Monty called his first time-out.
Former Sun Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love entered in the place of Garland and rookie Evan Mobley, and Love quickly hit a three after a Mikal dunk to go up 17-9. The Suns then tightened up their defense and got two fast break opportunities and cut the lead to 5, forcing the Cavs to take their first time-out with 5:09 to go.
Phoenix found early success when in transition. McGee managed to take it coast to coast with a thunderous slam to cut the lead to 4, but the Cavs found a way to push it back up to 31-24 once more to end the quarter, banking on their size and the Suns poor 3-pt shooting (0-4).
JaVale dressing as Air Jordan for Halloween pic.twitter.com/BlLjroLsra— PHNX Suns (@PHNX_Suns) October 31, 2021
At the start of the second, Monty decided to mix it up by bringing in Jalen Smith in a rare appearance from the former 10th pick outside of garbage time, alongside Paul, Shamet, McGee and Cam Johnson.
Jalen Smith is checking in to start the second quarter— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) October 31, 2021
Stix provided some interesting minutes early, forcing Rubio into an awkward pass on one possession and getting a block on the spaniard quickly after that. He also found two free throws to get his first points, but the Suns missed another six threes to start the second, making them 0-10 from three until Cam Johnson finally hit one from the corner to make it 42-31.
After a Cavs time out, CP3 and Jae Crowder came out and hit back to back 3s to make things interesting again. Then, it was Ayton time. He got his rhythm with a great dish from Chris Paul followed by a turnaround jumper over Mobley, a lob and then a pocket pass for an and-one, both from Booker, making it an 15-4 run to tie it back 46-46.
After a number of misses from the Suns and a lot of turnovers from the Cavs, Booker was finally able to get out on the run and feed Mikal Bridges for the Suns’ first lead of the game. He then followed it up with mid range jumper with 12 seconds left to close the quarter on a 19-2 scoring run and taking a 50-46 lead.
Suns finish the half on a 19-2 run and a four-point lead! pic.twitter.com/6Bc3oaOXI3— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) October 31, 2021
DA finished the half with 11 points and 9 rebounds, to go along with 3 steals and 1 assist. Booker had 10 points and 7 assists. For the Cavs, no player finished the half with double figures, with Garland leading the scoring with 9 points, followed by Sexton, Love and Cedi Osman with 8 each.
Sexton and Chris Paul exchanged free throws to start the half, as CP3 kept looking for his touch after going 1-4 in the first half. The Suns then got back in transition with a CP3 dish to an Ayton dunk, followed by another stop and a beautiful offensive possessions with the ball moving from side to side and ending with a Booker corner 3, forcing the Cavs into a quick time-out.
Lololol and by "Booker corner 3" I mean "his foot was on the damned line again"— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) October 31, 2021
That did not do much for the Cavs. Booker suddenly remembered it was his birthday night and started looking for his own shot more often. He hit a number of mid range jumpers to go along with one from CP3 and a Crowder 3, quickly pushing the lead to 15 and forcing J.B. Bickerstaff to call another time out with 06:54 to go.
It did not matter much as the Suns defense did not let up, forcing misses and turnovers and giving the Suns the opportunity to run. At the 4:12 mark, CP3 was running the show with floaters, threes and beautiful dishes, pushing the score to 78-54 and forcing yet another Cleveland time out.
That was a 50-12 run by the Suns!
It was then that Monty decided to bring in in the bench with Payton, Shamet, Cam Johnson and McGee checking in to go along Booker and the Cavs finally responded with a 5-0 run, forcing him to take his first time-out of the quarter with 2:45 to go. The Suns were able to get good looks after the stop, but did not convert as Booker and Cam Johnson both missed open 3s.
Tight defense - including a block and a steal from Cam Johnson - allowed the lead to stay comfortable, but the offense just did not find its flow again. Payton got himself to the line for two, but missed both and the Suns turned it over until Cleveland finally hit back to back threes to cut it 78-65 to end the 3rd.
Suns did not score in the last 4:14 of the third quarter. That allowed the Cavaliers to go on an 11-0 run and be within reach enough to make it interesting. 78-65 through 3 quarters.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) October 31, 2021
CP3 came in for Booker to start the 4th as the Suns kept struggling from the free throw line, after Shamet went 1-2. Chris had to work extra hard to get McGee an open look and then make an elbow jumper to respond to a Cedi Osman three just to contain the bleeding.
Jalen Smith checked back in after a time-out to bring some size back to the Suns line-up, getting a ridiculous dish from CP3 for an easy dunk. However, he followed it up with a couple of bad possessions on both ends, as the Cavs found their range from 3, cutting the lead to 11. The teams exchanged buckets and misses until Monty decided to go small, with Booker and Mikal checking back in with little more than 5 minutes to go.
Those minutes clearly did not go well and McGee checked back in, as it was confirmed DA would not come back due to a knee problem. Booker found Mikal for an alley-oop from before half court and McGee hit on a drive to the rim before the Cavs responded with a three to make it 15 again, until the game was stopped at the 2:17 mark.
The Booker-Bridges connection is always fun, but this was something else. Perfect passpic.twitter.com/81T16Kyog0— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) October 31, 2021
The Cavs still came out with a fight trying to make it interesting. They forced a Booker turnover and converted on the other end. CP3 managed to find one of his classic rip-throughs to get on the bonus, but missed both FTs, followed by another Cleveland putback to make it a ten point game. Booker responded with a jumper that all but sealed the game, despite the Cavs still pushing the Suns until the last second fueled by an array of missed free throws - CP3 went 0-4 in the last minute.
The Suns close a low scoring affair for their first win at home and Booker gets to celebrate his 25th birthday a bit more at ease.